Three vanishing acts are being played out in the Gulf: the disappearing of the oil from the ocean surface by Corexit, the disappearing of the story by the media blockade, and the disappearing from view of the shadowy private contractors who are making a mint helping BP and the Coast Guard keep a cover on the clean-up. This triple vanishing trick, collectively choreographed by BP and sundry federal agencies, culminated on August 4th in a report released by NOAA that claimed 75% of the oil spill had been captured, burned, evaporated or broken down. The White House hailed the report as something to celebrate. Energy advisor Carol Browne announced: "the vast majority of the oil is gone."
A clamor of outrage immediately rose from the Gulf, as residents refused to dance the crisis-is-over, happy-feet dance. Hundreds of locals furiously insisted that they were still seeing masses of oil on ocean, beaches and marshes, and dead fish, dolphins, sharks, birds and other marine life washing ashore. Then on August 18th scientists from the Universities of Georgia and South Florida produced an open challenge to the White House report, asserting that 70% to 79% of the oil in the Gulf still remained in the water. Charles Hopkinson, a professor of marine science at the University of Georgia declared: "The idea that 75% of the oil is gone and of no concern to the environment is just absolutely incorrect."